It has been a long time coming, a real long time, but Sun has at last officially released Solaris 9 for Intel. Or to be precise Solaris 9 for x.86 - there appears zero enthusiasm for a port of the Unix OS to Intel's 64-bit Itanium plaftform.
In January last year, Sun put Solaris on x.86 development on ice, citing lack of user demand for 32-bit Unix, much to the dismay of the many users - 1.1 million registered licenses - of 32-bit Unix on x.86.
At the time Sun said it would make available Solaris 8 on Intel for two years and support Solaris x.86 for a further five years.
So what prompted the change of heart? Well, Sun's decision to abandon Solaris x.86 was eccentric in the first place. At worst, the Unix OS was a cheap entryism into the Intel x.86 world, at middle, a challenge for Microsoft for OS business in the entry-level server market, and at best, especially with other commercial Unix x.86 distros falling by the wayside, a potentially useful money-spinner.
Sun is taking the Microsoft challenge on board with some very keen pricing: non-commercial licences for Solaris 9 x.86 Platform Edition are "free" -(you have to pay 20 bucks to get the binaries) while commercial licences are $99. OEM prices are also "attractive". And the company is making the source code for Solaris available. Solaris 9 x.86 is available for download here.
So how do prices compare with Microsoft on Intel? Sun is making so big claims - it reckons that Solaris 9 x86
"lowers the total cost of acquisition by a factor of as much as 15 compared to a two-way web server configuration of the Microsoft Windows 2000 Server".
We are sure Microsoft is preparing a rejoinder, as we write.
Plenty of vendors are pleased with Sun's decision to redouble support and development for x.86. BEA, Sybase, Quantiva, Verizon and AMD are all tipping in with their support. Here is a typical quote from Alan DuBoff, president, of a company called Software Orchestration, Inc.
"We are pleased Sun has listened to the x86 community. By offering the Solaris 9 OS on x86 hardware, customers can once again take advantage of the rock solid operating system on a low cost platform. Solaris has long been a leader in the enterprise sector and the addition of the Sun ONE software stack makes the Solaris x86 Platform Edition a very attractive and cost effective solution."
Sun says it expects to deliver an integrated Sun ONE software portfolio on the Solaris x86 Platform Edition "within the calendar year". ®